SAN ANTONIO — Car-rental prices are driving up the cost of vacations these days because of high demand and limited supply.
“We are seeing some incredible prices – $1,000 dollars for a few days of a rental car, even a compact car – and in some cases just flat-out no inventory where companies are completely sold out,” said Nick Ewen, senior editor for The Points Guy.
Travelers are also finding they may not be able to depend on ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
“They’re experiencing their own shortage and some of their own high prices,” Ewen said.
Many travelers are steering toward car-sharing services instead. They are a lot like Airbnb, but for your car. Travelers can rent cars from Avail at their destination without having to worry about age restrictions or added costs for a second driver.
Plus, it comes with full coverage insurance from Allstate included in the cost. Yet, the best perk might be the price.
"We have been really, really intent on keeping prices manageable and affordable,” said Alex David of Avail. “We impose price ceiling on our services so that we’re not ending up in situations where folks are having to pay $730 a day for a car like you may have seen out in Hawaii or people end up having to rent a U-Haul.”
He said Avail puts unused cars on the road and money into car owners' pockets in 15 cities.
“The average American spends nearly $800 a month on their car, but they’re only used about 5% of the time,” David said. “So we have this really expensive thing that’s really poorly utilized and we are on a mission to make that more efficient and put meaningful dollars back into peoples' pockets.”
Car sharing is also accelerating incomes in popular tourist destinations like San Antonio. Farah Yussuf’s full-time job is renting cars with another carsharing company called Turo. Having started with two vehicles, he's since grown his fleet.
“The last three months, I made over $15,000 just renting out with Turo. That's eight to nine cars,” he said.
Yussuf left his social media job during the pandemic after finding he could make more money and work less by renting out his cars.
“When I noticed I’d be working from home for maybe another year, and my car is just going to sit there and I would have to make payments—that really didn’t sit well with me,” Yussuf said.
He said he cut his work week from 60 hours to about 15 while tripling his income.
“Some days I don’t do anything and I’m still making money,” Yussuf said. “I knew I had to quit my 9-to-5 to make time for this.”
However, he warns demand for car rentals tends to fluctuate, so car owners need to be prepared for sudden stops in their income.
Drivers who use car-sharing services need to keep in mind if there are risks to these rentals.
“If you’re renting a car from an individual, that is one car, and if something goes wrong with that one car from an individual – unexpected maintenance, an accident by a previous driver – where it’s not going to be available for you, that owner doesn’t have a fleet of vehicles to potentially pull from,” Ewen said.
Travelers who prefer traditional car rental companies should book their ride early.
“I never thought that I would recommend that travelers book rental cars before they book flights or hotels, but that’s where we are,” Ewen said. “That’s really important because you would hate to lock in a great price on a flight or a great vacation rental or hotel room, only to find out that you’re going to have to pay $100, $150 a day for a rental car.”
Join the car rental agency’s loyal program. That will give you priority and will help make sure the car is there waiting for you when you arrive.
“That’s a little tip that can save you time because you may not have to wait in line,” Ewen said. “You can potentially go right to your car and find your rental agreement and the keys already waiting for you. If you’re a member of the loyalty program, that may increase your chances that when you actually get to the airport, the car will be available for you.”
Save some money on the price of a traditional car rental by looking at off airport rental locations.
“If you are finding that you’re trying to fly into an airport that doesn’t have any available cars or has them at a very high price, look at maybe a downtown location,” Ewen said.
Or see if a local car dealer at your destination will rent you a vehicle.
“They have loaners for when a vehicle owner brings in a car for service. Some of them actually do offer rental services,” said Ewen. “If you’re going to a destination, you’re really not happy with the options or the prices, consider calling around to some of those dealerships and you may find a lucky one that will get you a car.”
Travelers might also consider ditching a rental car all together.
“Ideally, if you can go some place that is totally walkable and you can simply get a taxi or use public transportation to get from the airport to the area where you’re staying, that would great,” Ewen said.
Another option is to opt for a staycation where you can use your own car.
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